On a recent Sunday night, I had two bored, bickering kids on my hands and needed an entertaining diversion. Spontaneously, I made reservations at Benihana in Citrus Heights - a lengthy dining experience I vaguely remembered as being loud, flamboyant and distracting. It turned out to be an act of pure genius. When we arrived, the place was packed with families, clapping and hollering as they watched their chefs cut, fry, flip and fling food in front of them. Encouraged, I settled my kids at a table with another family, and the fun soon began. The kids were riveted by the chef's hijinks (and were deeply appreciative of the bottomless glasses of soda, snatched away and replaced so quickly their heads were spinning). Our talented, gregarious chef made a rooster out of eggs on the grill, catapulted shrimp tails into his hat, and juggled knives and spatulas with great aplomb - earning the enthusiastic respect of my children, who pleaded to come back on their birthdays.
5489 Sunrise Boulevard, Citrus Heights, (916) 961-2791; www.benihana.com